The Limits of the Built Environment

Is it smart people that make cities thrive or is it a great built environment?

From Witold Rybczynski’s Slate article on Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier:

Glaeser defines the city as a “mass of connected humanity.” His emphasis on human capital is important because politicians and planners tend to overvalue the physical environment. They encourage cities to look for the Next New Thing, whether it’s pedestrian malls, downtown stadiums, iconic museums, or light rail. It is as if 13th-century European cities, envious of Venice’s great commercial success, had said “Oh, that’s the trick—we just have to turn our streets into canals.”